Long queues at polling stations in Monrovia — suggesting a high turn out as Liberians voted Tuesday on a referendum by President George Weah to shorten office terms for the president and lower-house lawmakers to five years instead of six.
President George Weah shared a few words, “I asked all Liberians to be peaceful, to come to the polling centre, exercise their franchise, select their candidate and leave with peace. And at the end of the day, the results will come and those that were elected, those that you voted for, will win. But this country needs to be peaceful. We don’t need to tear our country down.”
Hundreds of thousands of Liberians are thought to reside overseas, having fled war and poverty. Upon acquiring another nationality, they lose their Liberian citizen and are thus barred from owning property at home — among other restrictions.
In a move that some hope could be an economic boost for the West African nation of 4.8 million people, voters are also choosing whether to repeal a 1973 ban on dual nationality as
Patience Teegbeh, a local who came out to vote, shares her contentment with the voting process, “It’s free and fair and transparent. I love the way it is going on and it’s okay for us.”
Opposition politicians in Liberia suspect that Weah – elected in 2018 and still in his first term, could use the office-occupation length constitutional change to cling to power. The 54-year-old president has denied the claim.
Liberia’s constitution sets a maximum of two terms — as is also the case in two other nations in West Africa whose electoral process saw the maximum term limit be side-stepped.
In Guinea, 82-year-old President Alpha Conde won a controversial third term in October after pushing through a new constitution that allowed him to bypass a two-term limit.
The same month, Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, 78, was elected for an equally contentious third term after having revised the country’s constitution.